Friday, April 17, 2009

Sound check: Gun control

It's time to cut through all the reactionary chaff and examine what high-ranking administration officials have said recently about the banning of so-called "assault weapons."

To start with, where does President Barack Obama himself really stand? For the answer, look no further than the Agenda section of the White House website:

"Obama and making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent."
Only yesterday, in a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, he reinforced his position:
"I have not backed off at all from my belief that...the assault-weapons ban made sense."
The president has lots of high-octane support, of course, from well-established gun grabbers in his cabinet. Remember what Attorney General Eric Holder said on February 25th?
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to re-institute the ban on the sale of assault weapons."
Ever since the anti-Second Amendment crowd started using drug-cartel violence in Mexico to make gun control a cross-border issue -- a development which threatens not only our constitutional rights but also our national sovereignty -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had an excuse to join the fray. In late March, when Andrea Mitchell of NBC News asked why the administration hasn't yet challenged "the gun lobby" and pushed harder on gun control, Clinton responded,
"I'm not gonna, you know, sugar-coat it. It's a very heavy lift. I think (letting the assault-weapons ban expire in 2004 was) a mistake. I think these assault weapons, these military-style weapons, don't belong on anyone's street."
Against that backdrop, public opinion is running against stricter firearms laws and the political climate in Congress doesn't favor anti-gun legislation -- that's the "heavy lift" mentioned by Clinton.

So in that context, is an assault-weapons ban on the table or not?

Before I offer an answer, here's the complete transcript of what President Obama said yesterday in Mexico City:

"I have not backed off at all from my belief that the gun -- the assault-weapons ban made sense. And I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we now know, here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence -- violence in our own country, as well.

"Now, having said that, I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy. And so, what we've focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws, because even under current law, trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across a border, is illegal. That's something that we can stop.

"And so our focus is to work with Secretary Napolitano, Attorney General Holder, our entire Homeland Security team, ATF, border security, everybody who is involved in this, to coordinate with our counterparts in Mexico to significantly ramp up our enforcement of existing laws. And in fact, I've asked Eric Holder to do a complete review of how our enforcement operations are currently working and make sure that we're cutting down on the loopholes that are resulting in some of these drug trafficking problems.

"The last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus. I'll give you one example, and that is the issue of gun tracing. The tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes -- that's information that we are still not giving to law enforcement, as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States Congress, and those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early.

"That doesn't mean that we're steering away from the issue of the assault guns ban, but it does mean that we want to act with urgency, promptly, now. And I think we can make significant progress."

Reintroducing the question, then: Are we going to see Obama-Biden-Holder-Clinton push for an assault-weapons ban?

Yes -- but not yet.

Notice that the president began and ended his response by asserting his support for a ban. Between those bookends, he expressed hope that repealing the Tiahrt Amendment -- which now blocks the release of confidential gun-ownership information to law enforcement -- might be fertile soil for legislative consensus.

And that's just a sample of his wish list. He also wants to close the (mythical) "gun-show loophole" and enact other "commonsense measures," like registration and onerous taxes, which effectively would prohibit the defensive use of firearms.

In my opinion, it's ludicrous for tin-hat gun owners to act as if the feds will be knocking on our doors today, tomorrow or any time soon to confiscate legally owned firearms. That said, I also believe that the government's ultimate goal is, for all practical purposes, to disarm law-abiding American citizens.

It wouldn't happen all at once. Our right to keep and bear arms would die by a thousand cuts.

Just as soon as the political climate and public opinion shift critical mass in the administration's favor, whether through electoral results or other events, it will begin to make its moves -- we can count on it.

We'd better be ready.

* * *
"The Second Amendment is not about hunting. ... The Second Amendment is about freedom. It's about protecting ourselves, our families, our property, and ultimately, if necessary -- I know this sounds pretty bold, but -- from our own government, when they get out of control. That's what it's all about." (former GOP presidential candidate & former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, to Glenn Beck on October 19, 2007)